A multidisciplinary research team from the Universitat de València (UV), the Museu de Prehistòria de València (MPV) and the Universitat de Barcelona (UB) has published a study revealing and interpreting a lead sheet with Iberian writing, the first obtained in a regulated excavation at Pico de los Ajos (Yátova), one of the most important Iberian sites. This plate, with archaic writing and unknown subject matter, has been transcribed phonetically and advances our knowledge of Iberian culture.
|Lead sheet with archaic Iberian inscription from the Pico de los Ajos site [Credit: UV]
Many of the lead plates come from spoliation and not from regulated excavations. Thus, the plate studied by the research group which includes Consuelo Mata, David Quixal and Gianni Gallello, from the Department of Prehistory, Archaeology and Ancient History, and Ana Serrano, a graduate of the Master’s degree in Archaeology at the UV, represents one of the few and the first from this site to be obtained from an excavation. Thanks to this, it has been possible to study it within a known context, both temporally and spatially. The study has been published in the journal Veleia.
The lead was found folded on itself and, after being cleaned and adapted at the MPV, it could be palaeographically interpreted by the specialists Joan Ferrer and Javier Velaza, from the UB. Written on both sides and forming a single text, Iberian symbols with well-known phonetic values can be identified. In addition, it should be noted that it was written between the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, while other similar plates generally date from later centuries. What is interesting is that its archaeological discovery was made in a later context, in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, by which time lead had lost its original function and was simply another metal to be recycled, along with other metal tools and implements. As for the subject matter of the text, its commercial or administrative nature has been ruled out, so one hypothesis is that it may be a religious text.
|Pico de los Ajos de Yatova site (Valencia) [Credit: UV]
“This site has one of the largest collections of texts written in Iberian in the whole peninsula,” says David Quixal. Lead sheets used as writing media are relatively common at Iberian sites. Pico de los Ajos, a settlement located in the town of Yátova, was inhabited from at least the 7th century BC and then abandoned between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD.
However, although it has been possible to study it phonetically, it is not clear what message this plate contains and, therefore, neither is the context in which it should be placed. “Iberian is a language that still cannot be translated, but experts are gradually making progress in identifying words and this helps to interpret what type of texts they were,” explains David Quixal, professor of archaeology and one of the authors of the article. In fact, in this lead sheet it has been possible to identify with some certainty the name of a person, Tořaibeleś, presumably the author of the text or the person who commissioned it.